SMB HR: Illegal Interview Questions

Monday, October 1, 2007
Posted by Brawlin Melgar

by John Beagle

SMB Employers should not be asking about race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual preferences or age. If you do, you are asking an illegal question.

Asking Citizenship is Illegal
You can not ask if the candidate is a United States citizen. You have to ask if the candidate is authorized to work in the U.S. Employers not only are allowed to inquire whether a candidate is prevented from lawfully becoming employed in this country because of Visa or Immigration Status, but also are required to document legal residency status.

Age Discrimination starts at 18 Years Old
Questions about a candidate's age must be limited to whether he or she is 18 years or older.

Race Exception
Most states prohibit pre-employment inquiries as to race. Exceptions can be made when inquiries relate to a candidate would serve a firm's approved minority group employment plan.

Arrest Record Requests are Illegal
Employers are prohibited from inquiring into a job candidate's arrest records, federal and state laws vary considerably. However, most jurisdictions allow questions regarding convictions.

Here are some legal interview questions questions:
1. Specific job desired (position, start date, salary sought)
2. Present employer and whether the interviewing firm may contact the applicant's present employer
3. Education
4. Military service
5. former employers (name, address, salary, position, reason for leaving)
6. References
7. Emergency contact information.

Keep in mind, even if you ask an illegal question it doesn't necessarily mean that the intent was to discriminate or that a crime has been committed. But play it safe, stay within the federal and local guidelines when asking job candidate questons.

Sources: USA Today Article: Keep Your Inteview questions Legal by Jeff McMurray
Illegal Interview Questions by Alison Doyle,